Can we suggest you design today around an hour or so in front of the telly around teatime? Qualifying for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix could just be electric. Lewis Hamilton was mighty in both his Free Practice sessions but 13 cars were inside seven-tenths of a second of Lewis’ leading times. Rather more ominously, Fernando Alonso was just five-hundredths of a second shy of the McLaren in FP2. The Ferrari that’s already leading the championship is getting faster and faster.
You don’t need pole to win in Montreal (only three drivers have won from pole in the last ten years) and – let’s face it – Lewis has hardly turned qualifying speed into results this year. But with teams suggesting a one stop strategy is possible, grid position will be especially important. It will certainly make it easier to dictate strategy in race where it’s more likely than not there will be a safety car. It rained a little today, but really only after FP2 had finished. It’s not on the forecast for tomorrow or Sunday.
So let’s quickly run through the teams expecting to have both their drivers in the final session of qualifying. We’ve said before there’s something odd going on at McLaren this year and there was more evidence of it yesterday when it seemed to take the team all day to fix an oil leak on Jenson Button’s car, allowing him only the bare minimum of track time in either session. This is McLaren remember, a team cast in the image of celebrity compulsive obsessive Ron Dennis. We are struggling to recall the last time Team Perfect didn’t suffer some kind of shambles during race weekend. And once again it was Jenson suffering. Whatever spell he’d formulated back in Australia to phase Lewis has worn off, or worse, backfired.
Ferrari, well they’ve become a bit like McLaren haven’t they? Or rather, how, McLaren used to be; start the season with a car that’s been slightly misconceived and slowly turn it in to a winner. In the hands of Fernando Alonso, the misconceived F2012 is already a winner and Ferrari have seemed to have developed it so it now looks good enough for even Felipe Massa to claim a win.
Two McLarens and two Ferraris in Q3 then. Despite not setting the timesheets on fire there was a certain confidence to the Mercedes team, who did after all have the fastest car around the streets of Monaco, a circuit not entirely dissimilar to Montreal. Rosberg was third quickest in FP1, Schumacher seventh in FP2, but only four-hundredths off. Remember, he didn’t look that quick until his ‘pole’ lap at Monaco. This is a team that is starting to function as Ross Brawn would want it. Both Merc’s in the top ten we say.
So four places left and six drivers in the frame; two Red Bulls, two Force Indias and two Saubers. We have to say, double-winners or not this year, the Red Bulls don’t quite look the shoe-ins from that group they should. That alone tells the story of just how upside-down is the formbook this season. The RB8s are running without the controversial holes in the rear floor. Not that it made much difference to their pace; Vettel second to Hamilton in FP1 and fourth behind Hamilton and the Ferraris in FP2. But we liked the look of the Force Indias, especially in the hands of Paul di Resta, fifth in FP2 and Kobayashi’s Sauber close behind. Monaco winner Mark Webber, we suspect, will have his work cut out for him this afternoon at 6.00pm. Don’t miss it. We’ll be back just after.